Full 2006 Pontiac GTO Review
What's New for 2006
There are no major changes in store for the 2006 Pontiac GTO.
The GTO legend started back in 1964, when Pontiac offered Tempest/Le Mans buyers a GTO option package. That performance-enhancing option proved so popular that the GTO became its own model and is often credited as the first true "muscle car." Although some purists would say the "real" GTO died in 1973, the GTO name lasted until 1974.
With only 200 horsepower and distinct Nova looks, it's easy to see why many do not consider the '74 to be a true Pontiac GTO. As the performance dwindled, so did the popularity of the car and sales swiftly declined. The introduction of the more realistic "net" horsepower rating in the early '70s couldn't have helped, as it was surely difficult for local dealers to explain why a '71 GTO with a 400-cubic-inch V8 produced only 255 hp. By 1972, some of the GTO's former glory was restored, but the dark cloud of emissions control and government-mandated bumpers loomed large, and the once-proud Pontiac car became nothing more than just another GM clone.
Miraculously, GM has resisted the urge to slap the GTO badge on anything since 1974. It seems all the more curious given how fast and loose Chevrolet plays with its once-coveted "SS" moniker. We can't help but wonder how close the first Grand Prix GTP came to being labeled a GTO, but thankfully those in charge at Pontiac realized that "GTO" shouldn't be within a mile of a front-wheel-drive V6 automobile -- V8s only, please. GM was able to deliver on that promise thanks to a little help from its Holden division in Australia. The Monaro CV8 is the basis for the modern-day Pontiac GTO, and like past models, the new version is a 2+2 coupe. The Holden received styling revisions to make it look more like a Pontiac. The resulting twin grille and a slightly familiar rear-end treatment say "Pontiac" even from 20 yards away. Initially, the GTO was powered by GM's LS1 V8 making 350 hp.
For 2005, Pontiac slid the LS2 6.0-liter V8 under the hood, good for 400 hp. Blasting from zero to 60 in less than 5.5 seconds and blitzing the quarter-mile in under 14 ticks means a 2006 Pontiac GTO will simply embarrass nearly any old Goat you could name. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard, and all GTOs come with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, as well as a limited-slip rear end and traction control. An optional six-speed manual transmission only adds to the fun, and with a fully independent, performance-tuned suspension and 17-inch wheels, this 3,700-pound Pontiac car delivers a relatively supple ride.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2006 Pontiac GTO is offered as a 2+2 sport coupe in one generously appointed trim level. The standard features list includes 17-inch aluminum wheels, leather upholstery, eight-way power front seats, a premium Blaupunkt audio system with an in-dash six-disc CD changer, a trip computer and power windows, locks and mirrors. Aside from choosing a manual or automatic transmission, the only significant option is a set of larger 18-inch wheels. A sunroof isn't available, nor is a navigation system.
Powertrains and Performance
There is only one engine available on the Pontiac GTO -- a 6.0-liter V8 rated at 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. The standard transmission is a four-speed overdrive automatic, but a six-speed, close-ratio manual transmission is available as an option. Regardless of which transmission is selected, all GTOs come with a limited-slip differential and traction control.
All 2006 Pontiac GTOs come standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, traction control, multistage front airbags and an emergency mode that shuts down the vehicle's systems and unlocks the doors in the event of an airbag deployment. Side airbags are not available, nor is stability control. Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS have conducted crash tests on the GTO.
Interior Design and Special Features
Unlike the original Pontiac GTO, this modern-day version is no stripper. The leather-trimmed front seats are comfortable and the overall interior design far surpasses that of the defunct Pontiac Firebird in terms of quality and functionality. The only letdowns of note are those generally endemic to a sport coupe: tight access to the rear seat, heavy doors and a small trunk.
On the street, the 2006 Pontiac GTO rides like a luxury car and is easy to drive on a daily basis. But when driven more aggressively, the car can feel ponderous because of its significant body roll and slow and numb steering. Best to keep the car pointed straight and let the V8 work its magic, which, naturally, has been the point of the GTO since the beginning.